As I write this, I am sitting in a hospital room with my mom and dad. My dad just went through colon cancer surgery yesterday and is now lying in a hospital bed, still feeling the lingering after-effects of the anesthesia. It is strange to see him there—helpless, weak, and unable to do anything for himself—because he has always been a man of vigor and strength. Even though he is 79 years old, he recently spent several months helping another family in their church remodel their home. He has served his church as sort of a one-man “building and grounds” committee, using his incredible talent with his hands to install, fix, and repair the church facilities. Now he lies in a bed, having gone through major surgery, unable to even sit up without assistance. And my dear mother, as desirous as she is to help her husband of almost 60 years, is unable to render much help because of her limited strength and mobility.
So what am I to do? The Scriptural imperative which keeps ringing in my mind is Exodus 20:12—“Honor your father and mother.” The same command is repeated in Deut. 5:16 and then quoted six times in the New Testament by Jesus and the apostle Paul (Matt. 15:4, 19:19; Mark 7:10, 10:19; Luke 18:20; Eph.6:2). The thought that has been running through my mind is, how is that command to work itself out in practical ways in my interaction with my parents?
In Mark 7, the Pharisees confronted Jesus about His disciples not following the Jewish religious tradition of ceremonially washing their hands before eating. Jesus responded by asking them why they violated God’s commandment to honor their parents. What they were doing was refusing to assist their needy parents by claiming that the possessions they owned which might be used to help their parents were actually dedicated to God. Jesus condemned such ungodly behavior, stating that it invalidated the word of God (Mark 7:13).
Clearly then, a part of honoring our parents is using our own earthly possessions and finances to assist them when they have needs. It is not enough to merely say words of respect and honor to them or about them. Our honor must find its feet in the use of our own resources to physically help them. The apostle John went so far as to say that those who have this world’s goods yet refuse to assist those around them in need, have no right to claim that God’s love abides in them (1 John 3:17). And in the context of that passage, he explains that those who are truly born again love others, and those who do not love are still unregenerate (John 3:14). So anyone who refuses to use his possessions for the benefit of his parents cannot claim to be a genuine Christian.
But possessions are not merely money and physical items. Rather, they include such things as the physical strength God has given me to help lift my sick father out of bed and help him to the bathroom or to a chair so he can sit up for a while. It includes doing the daily housework that my mom needs help with since she is physically limited and the stress of this situation is sapping her strength even more. It includes using the paid vacation leave that my employer gives me so I can spend time at my parents’ home assisting them with their daily needs rather than taking a vacation that I might enjoy much more.
It’s good that I demonstrate my respect for my parents with words that express my love for both of them, but I have not truly fulfilled the requirements of God’s word until I honor them by putting my words into action and do all that I can to assist them both financially and physically. May God grant me the willingness, desire, and strength to honor my father and mother in a way which brings Him the most glory. Pray that I will do so during the coming days.